How to Run Project Meetings

One of the biggest complaints we all hear is that there are too many project meetings. They prevent people from doing “real” work.  Project meetings come in all sizes: sponsor meetings, cabinet meetings, stakeholder meetings, status meetings, working meetings, brainstorming meetings, etc. The types of meetings depends on the organization and the complexity of the project.  In this article we’ll talk about working meetings, also called brainstorming sessions or issues resolution sessions.  These meetings are often huge time-wasters and are viewed negatively by frustrated team members and project sponsors. Disgruntled participants complain about the  lack of progress in solving the project’s issues or risks.

How to Run Project Meetings: The Approachproject meetings

This approach helps project managers make working meetings more effective.

Why is a meeting needed?  Clearly communicate what the issue is and why it is important to meet and discuss it. Here’s an example: “Compliance is questioning the new software application’s security access which may require a programming change.” It’s important to keep meetings focused on a single topic. Don’t  try to “boil the ocean” and cover too much ground.

What is the goal of the meeting?  To review options and gain consensus?  To inform stakeholders about an issue? To determine the issue’s priority?

Who needs to be invited and why?  The more people you have in a meeting the more difficult it will be to control the topic.  However, excluding critical stakeholders may result in a lack of critical input and additional “repair” work.

Where, When, How – Ignoring basic logistics can be stressful, frustrating, and highly unproductive.  Make sure the meeting invitation includes these critical elements:

1) an agenda

2) the goal of the meeting

3) the location

4) the time. I f you have remote participants, be sure to confirm the meeting time for the relevant time zones (PST, CST, EST; International).  Otherwise you may have people calling in at 2AM!

5) a teleconference and/or video conference number, including host # and participant #

Summary and Next Steps – It is the PM’s responsibility to ensure that everyone leaves the working meeting with the following:

1) an understanding of the issue and what decision(s) were made

2) the next steps and/or who is responsible for each one.

A best practice is to follow up working meetings with clear, concise summary notes or highlights. This should be no more than ½ or ¾ of a page summarizing what was discussed, decided, and any additional action items, including due dates.

Meetings are a way of life for Project Managers.  Making them effective and efficient takes practice, but it is an investment that pays off.

You can learn all of the skills for running meetings in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager and practice running meetings and giving presentations in private, online sessions with your instructor. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on